Health and nutrition are my passion! I write articles and talk to people about health and nutrition, so that they can learn what promotes optimal health and what to avoid. As the reader/listener, you must make the final decision regarding your health care and food choices, and be responsible for maintaining your own health. My goal is to give you the information and knowledge to make the most educated and wise choices.
There is a lot of misinformation about health and nutrition in general, but I am amazed by the amount of misleading information and propaganda about soy. Soy has been called “a miracle food that is a good source of protein, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol”. It is said to help you overcome illness, obtain optimal health, alleviate symptoms of menopause, improve bone health (osteoporosis), lower “bad” cholesterol or LDL, protect you from cancer and save the world from hunger. 85% of the US population thinks that soy is a healthy food, but this is one of the biggest myths in the health food industry. Soy is one of those “foods” that should be avoided, and most especially all types of non-fermented soy.
A brief history of soyHistorically, soy has been used for thousands of years by farmers as a “green manure” (fertilizer), to fix nitrogen in the soil for the benefit of future crops. Today, soy is considered an industrial product, used in many manufacturing processes, such as making carpet, plastics, adhesives, plywood panels, building materials, pipes, ink, lubricants, paint, biodiesel fuel. It is preferred over petroleum products because it is biodegradable, renewable and abundant. Soy was not used as a food until fermentation (the growth of microorganisms in food) was discovered by the Chinese during the Chou Dynasty (1134-246 B.C.). Then soy appeared out of nowhere, and was promoted as the miracle health food of the 21st century. Between 1992 to 2006 a shift in attitudes resulted from shrewd marketing that targeted health conscious consumers. Well-funded, massive advertising campaigns contributed to the growing popularity of soy products.
It is a popular belief, which was originated by the soy industry, that Oriental peoples consume large amounts of soy in traditional Asian cooking. The soy industry would have you believe that Asians eat large quantities of soy and attribute their lack of chronic illness to the health giving qualities of consuming soy. In truth, the traditional Asian diet consume only organic fermented soy, which is used only very small amounts, as a condiment.
Fermentation alters the characteristics of the soybean by significantly reducing the anti-nutrient and anti-thyroid compounds, such as trypsin inhibitor and physic acid, which are found in non-fermented soy. Fermentation produces positive changes by using the actions of certain bacteria, molds and yeasts, to make the soy healthier, by neutralizing soy’s inherent toxins and creating healthy-promoting probiotics or good bacteria to enhance intestinal health. However, studies show contradictory results about the health benefits of fermented soy. Fermented soy produces include miso, natto, fermented soy sauce (Shoyu, Tamari) and Tempeh. Non-fermented soy has not been subjected to the fermentation process and has many potential adverse effects.
The soy industry has found a use for every part of the soybean, but unfortunately that means they have found ways to introduce it as an additive into our food supply. Soy lecithin is used as a stabilizer in baked goods, in shortening and margarine to make it more solid, to add consistency to the texture of mayonnaise and dressings, in chocolates and candy coatings, as an emulsifier to help ingredients mix evenly, to add water to oily or fatty foods. This addition of water to fatty foods makes it possible for manufacturers to label them “low fat” and “low calorie”, when in reality, they are just more water. Soy Lecithin can also be found in chewing gum, ice cream, instant mixes, pharmaceuticals and pie crusts. Soy isolates are used in meat products to improve texture and eating enjoyment.
Non-fermented forms of soy include, soy protein isolate, soybean oil, soy milk, soy patties, tofurky, vegetarian chili, Yuba, soy flour, soy flakes - defatted or full fat, soy fiber, non-dairy desserts, soy bran, soy sauce (non-fermented), soy sprouts, soy hot dogs, tofu, soy grits, soy hulls, soy isoflavone (phytoestrogen) supplements, soy spreads, soy cheese, soy energy and protein bars, soy meat substitutes, soy nuts, soy lecithin, protein shakes, soy sterols, soy nut butter, soy yoghurt, and Edamame. There is nothing natural or safe about these products. Soy can be found in one of these forms in just about every processed food, so it would be very easy to consume large amounts of soy and not even be aware of it. Other aliases include, vegetable oil, lecithin (the waste product left over after soybeans are processed), natural flavorings, and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP®) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), which are used as an ingredient in meat products to cut the cost of the actual meat, and in dairy products; chili, sloppy joes, tacos, burritos, spaghetti w/ meatballs, burgers, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meats. Soy can also be hidden in ingredients such as colors, flavors and spice blends that manufactures add to their products. They will not appear on the label as ingredients in the products they use to make their product, of course.
Additionally, many health and beauty products contain soy, such as arthritis medications, “softgel” capsules made from lecithin, lotions, face & hand creams, bubble baths, nail polish removers, candles, shampoo & conditioners, soaps, estrogen replacements.
Also, though soy may not be directly added to eggs or meats, 80% of the worlds soy is used in animal feed; soybean meal.
Soy has become a very big and profitable business. More than 2,700 new soy-based products have been introduced to food shoppers. Soy is the cheapest crop to grow in the United States. In fact, the world produces 500% more soybean than it did 40 years ago. The soy industry does not want the negative effects of soy consumption to be exposed. The soy industry is very powerful and have successfully lobbied the FDA to endorse soy as a health food, that is touted as a heart healthy meat alternative. “It is said that, and 84% of Americans believe, that a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet, which includes 25 grams of soy protein per day, may reduce the risk of heart disease”. The media has been fed this information by the soy industry, which it repeats over and over, and the public gladly receives and acts upon it.
So, what is so bad about non-fermented soy?
Soy side-effectsSoy blocks protein digestion. Trypsin, a potent pancreatic enzyme, is blocked by the action of trypsin inhibitor compounds in soy, as is also the case with other enzymes which are necessary for protein digestion. These inhibitors are large, tightly folded proteins that produce serious gastric distress, inhibit protein digestion and cause chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. Soybeans also contain hemagglutinin, which is a substance that causes red blood cells to clump together, forming blood clots. Both Trypsin and hemagglutinin are growth inhibitors.
Soy blocks uptake of essential minerals - Soy has one of the highest levels of phytates, of any grain or legume. Phytic acid blocks the uptake of essential minerals, like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, which contribute to widespread mineral deficiencies among vegetarians who consume soy as a substitute for meat. Zinc is needed for optimal brain and nervous system development and functioning. It is needed to make hydrochloric acid for protein digestion and syntheses, as well as collagen formation. Zinc is involved in blood sugar control and a healthy reproductive system. Zinc is a key component in many vital enzymes and plays an important roll in immunity. Zinc deficiency can cause you to feel “spacey”, which is often mistaken as a spiritual high.
Soy is linked to thyroid, hormone imbalance problems and infertility - The truth is that, people who regularly consume soy in the non-fermented form, like vegetarians and vegans, have more thyroid problems as compared to people who do not consume soy, and the severity of the imbalance in their hormones is proportionate to the amount of soy they ingest. The incidence of thyroid problems, from hypothyroidism to autoimmune thyroid illnesses and cancer are occurring at epidemic rates. In fact, it is nearly impossible to balance the thyroid and the rest of the endocrine system if you consume large amounts of soy in your diet. Soy inhibits thyroid function by blocking the conversion of inactive (T4) thyroid hormone to active (T3) thyroid hormone. Symptoms include brittle nails, cold hands and feet, constipation, fatigue, exhaustion, depression, brain fog and difficulty concentrating, dry, itchy skin, dry, coarse or thinning hair, elevated cholesterol, menstrual irregularities, muscle cramps, puffy eyes, unexplained or excessive weight gain. Hyperthyroidism (overactive) symptoms include, fatigue, goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland), intolerance to heat, hypertension, irritability, excess perspiration, menstrual disturbance, nervousness, palpitations, tremors, weakness, weight loss and thinning skin. People who are sick and have hormonal and thyroid disorders (Grave’s or Hashimoto’s, goiter, hypo/hyper-thyroidism, thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer) and nutrient imbalance are consuming excessive amounts of soy, because they think soy is a “health food”. I know, because I used to be one of them.
In truth, soy has been shown to cause nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances and infertility in both men and women and can be very damaging to the reproductive system. In fact, soy is listed as poisonous in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Poisonous Plant Database. It contains anti-nutrients and phytochemicals that are toxic to humans.
Soy is linked to cancer - The truth is that, epidemiological, clinical and laboratory studies have linked soy to various types of cancer, decreased endocrine function, thyroid dysfunction and hypothyroidism, digestive tract distress, birth defects, allergies, heart disease, cognitive decline, heart disease, kidney stones, malnutrition (most notably vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency; both are needed to prevent and treat osteoporosis, not to mention their contribution to neurological health), weight gain. Soy decreases fertility and libido in men. It is impossible to improve libido in men, if they consume soy products.
In fact, for women, soy’s claim to contain the miracle nutrients “phytoestorgens”, which are said to mimic estrogen and thus relieve menopausal symptoms, while improving osteoporosis and preventing or treating cancer is exactly the opposite of truth. In reality, soy is linked to the development of breast cancer, vitamin and mineral depletion in bones leading to the development of osteoporosis, infertility and reproductive disorders. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens found abundantly in soy; i.e., genistein and daidzein have been found to be carcinogenic and damaging to DNA. I believe in exercising great caution with any product that claims to mimic estrogen. I was able to treat my menopausal symptoms by getting away from soy completely and improve my eating habits, by choosing whole foods, avoiding processed foods entirely and drinking only pure water.
Also, isoflavones have been showed to reduce thyroid hormone absorption and interfere with thyroid peroxidase, which is necessary for the thyroid gland to use iodine to make thyroid hormone. Genistein and daidzein block this important reaction, so it is important to avoid any supplement that contains either genistein or daidzein. Note that goitrogens are found in many other common foods in our diet, like in cruciferous vegetables; broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, mustard, kohlrabi, rutabaga, millet, peaches, radishes, spinach and strawberries. However, regular cooking methods neutralizes these goitrogens. Soy, on the other hand, is very different. The goitrogens are not easily deactivated by cooking. Adequate iodine supplementation was needed to counter the goitrogenic effects of soy, as experienced by myself.
Iodine deficiency is occurring in a vast majority of Americans. As a direct result, the incidence of goiter has increased proportionately. Correcting my iodine deficiency problem has made a dramatic positive difference in my health. I was able to discontinue use of Armors Thyroid years ago and my weight stabilized.
Infant formulas containing soy expose infants to phytoestrogens, which are the most dangerous components of soy, and expose infants who are fed exclusively soy formula to an equivalent amount of hormone that is found in 5 birth control pills every day. These phytoestrogens, known as isoflavones (genistein and daidzein) interfere with the body’s natural endogenously-produced estrogens. Needless to say, I don’t recommend exposing babies to hormonal chemicals in soy formula any more than I would recommend giving an infant a hand full of birth control pills. A newborn male experiences surges of testosterone after birth. The negative consequences of having a newborn male ingest the powerful phytoestrogens found in soy after birth should cause great concern for the future of that child and puts males and females at great risk for reproductive problems in adulthood. Infants fed soy formulas also developed hypothyroidism and goiter. Such infants also developed autoimmune thyroid disorder in later years, unlike those who were not fed soy formulas. Genital problems in newborn males have increased over the past 20 years, including hypospadias (urethra birth defect in males). Sperm counts have also fallen during this time.
Mothers are told that soy formula is a complete protein, without the allergic effect of cow’s milk, but in fact, soy has been shown to be just as, if not more allergenic as compared to cow’s milk. Soy is one of the top 8 allergens (soy, egg, dairy, wheat, peanut, corn, tree nuts and shellfish account for 90% of all food allergies), with allergy symptoms that are similar to cow’s milk allergy, including ear infections, sinus infections, crankiness, joint pain, fatigue and digestive complaints. The numerous side effects of soy far outweigh any benefits. Visit westonaprice.org for homemade formulas and alternatives.
Soy has been linked to food allergies - Food allergies, vegans and vegetarians: Soy is not a suitable replacement or substitute for meat, dairy, wheat or nuts. It is difficult to find gluten or casein-free products that do not contain soy, especially if you are looking in the packaged and processed foods section. The key to soy, casein and gluten free foods is to use real, whole foods and prepare these items in your own kitchen, where you can have total control over what goes into the foods you give to those you love and care for.
In addition, infant formulas that contain soy are associated with immune system dysfunction, hormonal problems, digestive complaints, food allergies and intolerances, Soy formulas contain soy protein isolates which cause thyroid abnormalities, including hypothyroidism. It also contains caustic chemicals that are cancer causing, in addition to other health damaging substances, such as phytates, saponins, soyatoxin, oxalates, goitrogens, estrogens, protease inhibitors, lectins, allergenic proteins, aluminum and manganese, just to name a few. Infants on soy formula have up to 20,000 times the amount of estrogen in circulation than babies who are given other formulas, which can cause significantly premature puberty, reproductive problems and infertility later in life and sexual abnormalities. Soy formula has as much as 80% more manganese than is found in human breast milk, which can directly cause brain dysfunction. A baby’s growing immune system and liver cannot handle the excessive amount of manganese found in soy formulas, which produces long term side effects for the growing brain. High levels of manganese have been linked to ADD/ADHD, brain damage, and other such behavioral disorders in children. Aluminum is toxic and can have long lasting detrimental effects on the kidneys and nervous system of a newborn and growing child. Other soy formula ingredients include guar gum, sodium hydroxide, potassium citrate monohydrate, carrageenan, tricalcium phosphate, dibasic magnesium phosphate trihydrate, BHA and BHT. Soy formulas are lacking in many essential ingredients which are found naturally in mother’s breast milk, such as linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, DHA, lactoferrin, T-cells, B-cells, immune factors, interferon, and cholesterol, which is essential for proper brain and nervous system development. The age of puberty has steadily decreased over the past 30 years as a result of xeno-estrogens found in the environment; pesticides, animal foods, plastics and soy. Soy formulas are one of the worst foods for infants!
90% of soy is GMO - Furthermore, unless it is organic, 90% of the soy that is grown around the world is GMO (genetically modified - altered DNA). Non-fermented soy is bad enough for you, but GMO soy is far worse. In the case of GMO soy, a gene is inserted in to the plant DNA to resist the herbicide called Roundup®. Soy is liberally sprayed with this herbicide to control weeds, but it doesn’t hurt the soy plant. No one knows the longterm effects of using these GMO foods or herbicide residues. Besides, it is only a matter of time before the weeds develop a resistance to Roundup®. We witnessed the effects of Agent Orange a couple generations ago. What did we learn? Soy is the most commonly genetically modified food in the food supply today, with corn as a close second. The FDA does not require any safety testing or labeling of GMO foods. Additionally, as compared to other crops, soy has more contamination by pesticides than any other food. Soy also goes through various form of modern processing methods to make oil, flour and other soy byproducts contained in most processed foods. These industrial processing methods include bleaching, boiling in petroleum-based solvents, crushing, deodorizing, heat-blasting at high temperatures, hydraulic pressing, solvent extraction, mixed in an alkaline solution and acid washed in an aluminum tank, and other chemicals are added.
Soy milk, for example, is made when de-hulled soybeans are soaked in water, ground, and strained. The liquid that remains is sweetened, flavored and fortified with synthetic vitamins, as well as the addition of stabilizers. Any calcium that it may contain is insoluble and not digestible to humans. The Vitamin D2 used to fortify soy milk is plant-derived and not bioavailable, like Vitamin D3, which is bioavailable. As a result of the manufacturing process, soy milk contains high levels of aluminum and solvents that are used to clean the machines. It is also packaged in aseptic cartons.This is not a healthy substitute for cow’s milk. Soy protein isolates also contain nitrites, which are known carcinogens, which form during processing. MSG (Monosodium glutamate, which is a neurotoxin (kills brain cells), is formed during the processing of soy protein isolate as well. Originally, soy protein isolate was developed to use in the manufacture of cardboard, but has been approved as a food additive in nutritional products like protein powder. GMO foods look and feel no different then conventionally grown produce, but they are drastically different on the inside.
When the DNA of a crop is altered by adding genes from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, and even human DNA, the resulting effects are often unpredictable. These antigens are not originally found in our food sources and they are particularly troublesome to some individuals. These foreign antigens present us with toxins, allergens, carcinogens, new diseases, antibiotic resistant diseases, nutritional and reproductive problems that may occur when ingested or in the children and grandchildren of those who consumed them. Children are particularly at risk while they are in various growing stages. These foreign genes have never been part of the human food supply and are not beneficial to our digestive and immune systems. The only soy that is not genetically modified is organically grown soy, but it should be fermented for human consumption, and only in very small amounts, as a condiment. Unfortunately, there are no studies being conducted to establish the impact GMO foods are having on the health of human beings and no regulation on GM labeling or monitoring. Soy is one of the top allergens, so manufacturers are required to list it on the labels, due to The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that was passed in 2006. Other GMO foods include corn, canola and cottonseed. Also, restaurants, especially fast food chains, use GM foods.
Many well-meaning physicians, even some alternative and holistic doctors, encourage their patients to consume soy as part of a healthy diet, promoting it for treating menopausal symptoms. Sadly, it is also included in infant formulas, school lunches for children, and meals provided in hospitals, prisons, nursing homes (low cost and long shelf life). In every way, this is a prescription for disaster.
Deceptive advertising would have you believe that soy is a health food, but the truth is that nothing could be further from the truth. Soy is not a health food, does not prevent disease and has not been proven safe. In fact, the exact opposite is true. It is best to completely and totally avoid soy, in all its forms, permanently.
To avoid soyFirst I avoid all processed foods, like salad dressings, pre-made meals and mixes, and choose only organic produce. I use organic whole milk cultured butter from cows and goats. I use cold pressed, organic olive oil. I do not use vegetable oils or shortening, canned oils, butter substitutes or spreads.
I make salad dressings using cold pressed organic olive oil, lemon juice and herbs. I avoid store-bought dressings, which usually contain soybean oil as a main ingredient.
Homemade is best! I prepare our meals at theme with organic, whole, fresh foods. I season our foods with Celtic Sea Salt and fresh or dried herbs from our garden. We pack our homemade meals everywhere we go and so we do not have to figure out where to get a meal when we are out. I avoid all canned, frozen, boxed and bagged foods, and any situation that would make it necessary to purchase meals at restaurants.
We pack our beverages also, made with water, fruit juices and SweetLeaf Stevia. We use organic whole milk from cows or goats for drinking and cooking.
We avoid all snack foods that are processed. Our snack foods are whole raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
I check labels every time I purchase vitamins, supplements, skin care products and Rx, which may contain soy in some form.
This is how things used to be done, before convenience became a way of life. I returned to simpler, more healthy ways, which has produced benefits and rewards that far outweigh any inconvenience or extra effort. What you put in and on your body (and those you love and care for) is the single most pivotal decision you make and the most important work you do every day.